Smokey 4/1/07 to 5/7/21 RIP

Smokey with the Chisos Mountains of the Rio Grande Valley behind her.

It is hard to know where to start in eulogizing Smokey. Simply put, she was a dog’s dog. Whether fighting with a rattlesnake, herding cows through my campsite, falling in the Kern River, meeting alligators, climbing trees, canoeing 350 miles down the Missouri River, or any other number of things; that dog could create an adventure out of an otherwise boring day.

Getting Smokey was an impulse decision, it was early Summer 2007 and my life was in flux. I already had a dog, did I really need a puppy? I senselessly got one anyway. She was only 8 weeks old and already a lightning bolt.

Smokey at 3 months.

She was a terror from day one. I started hiking Tilden Park every day before and after work in an effort to wear that dog down. There are about 30 miles of dog friendly trails in the park and Smokey had hiked them all within a week. We did puppy school together. Although she was intelligent she was also wild and head strong.

Within months I both loved and hated that dog, and for the very same traits; strong willed and brave. She would meet any perceived threat head on and she barked…a lot.

At about 8 months I sent her to boot camp, a 30 day board and train program. While most of the training did not stick, she was much more bearable after that. And since she was pinch collar trained she understood the word “no”.

Enjoying the Sierra Mountains.

Shadow was 4 when Smokey came to join us. When Smokey was about a year old her and Shadow had a six month period when every interaction had the potential to turn into a fight. Shadow managed to resist Smokey’s status seeking beta behavior until the end. The two ended being stalwart friends until Shadow’s death in 2019.

Shadow and Smokey were inseparable for many years.

The three of us would road trip a few times a year. Like Shadow, Smokey hit all the great National Parks; from Glacier to Big Bend and from Yosemite to Everglades and most of them in between.

Smokey enjoyed the travel, making it to 32 states, camping in the national forests in most of them. In 2009, Smokey and I took a 350 mile canoe trip on the Missouri River. She was a great companion on the trip and I think it was one of the high points of her life (not to mention my own).

Canoeing the Missouri River.

Smokey split her life almost evenly between Berkeley, CA and Columbia, MO; spending the first half of her life on the West coast and her latter years in the heartland.

If I thought about it, I am sure that there are nearly a hundred anecdotes that would illustrate Smokey’s intense ability to grapple with life. I am only going to share one here, this is one that I wrote about elsewhere. This happened back in 2014 when Smokey was 7.

Smokey is a cow dog, when in the car she barks at every cow she sees. Until last month she had never met a cow in person. Since she had adapted so well to our life of travel I decided to let her meet some cows as a reward. So last month I tracked down some cows in the national forest and turned her loose on them. She instantly knew what to do with them, she circled to their far side and gently pushed them to me. I circled away and she nipped at them and they turned to follow. I eventually ran away and called her along (did I mention that I am afraid of cows?)  That is the background for the first anecdote.
This morning the dogs woke me up at about daybreak to let them out of the tent. Which I did and then I lay back down contented, just loving life. It wasn’t long before Shadow started growling…a rumble low down in her chest that tells me she is serious. She is 11 and this was only the forth or fifth time that I’ve heard her do it.
I grab for my glasses and the tent zipper at the same time and i hear a crashing sound from outside. I get the tent open just in time to see a half dozen cows come careening down a 30 foot sand embankment and into camp, with Smokey at their heels. Three cows, two calves and a bull. One cow lets out a bass “mew-oo” that I could feel in my bones. Evidently she had become separated from her calf. I scrambled out of the tent shouting and trying to get them out of camp while scrambling up the embankment away from them. They left out the drive and down the road, the calf-less cow continuing to call out and thankfully Smokey let them go. I am dismayed that Smokey thought it was a good idea to round up a small herd of cattle and run them through camp first thing in the morning. Incidentally, I saw the wayward calf slink around camp to join its mother about 15 minutes later.
I am blown away by how innate this behavior is in Smokey. Shadow, a sheep dog, would herd people when she was young, but without reinforcement, the behavior was extinguished by the time she was 2. The behavior has to be stored in their DNA, what other explanation could there be? It is totally amazing that Smokey would just naturally know what to do with cows. And, while I know that I am anthropomorphizing, I am certain that she had a self satisfied look on her face.

Smokey with cow.

And that look is what I am going to hold on to.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. Still, it would be nice to imagine The Smokester in a meadow somewhere with a bunch of cows to push around. Perhaps reuniting with Shadow for some grand adventure.

Smoke leaves an outsized hole in this world and it will take some time to heal. I am going to miss that dog.


RIP My Sweet Girl

Shadow: May 22, 2003 to April 25, 2019

Photopaint of Shadow
Shadow, my loving and faithful friend and companion.

When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’—Rudyard Kipling

She was barely 3 months old when I got her, a bundle of furry energy. I had wanted a companion dog for some time. After settling on a breed (Australian Shepherd), it took me nearly 2 years to find the right one. I initially wanted a German Shepherd, but decided on something smaller–had I known I would get the world’s biggest Aussie…I wouldn’t change a thing.

Shadown as Puppy
At 3 Months

Like every new dog owner, I intended to be tough on her, I told myself she would develop no bad manners. All of that melted away within a day when she was mauled by a pit bull. She spent the night in the hospital and couldn’t walk by herself for nearly a week, I wasn’t tough on that dog, she was my baby girl. She recovered from the mauling remarkably well, her brown eye was weepy from a torn tear duct and she had little biting power due to a broken snout. These things never got in her way other than always losing at tug-of-war, even against puppies.

Shadow with grass
Shadow, somewhere above the Mississippi River.

Shadow was a food gulper. When I got her I thought I could teach her to not gulp by keeping her food bowl full, but that wasn’t the case. She got fat, a problem she would struggle off and on with for her entire life. But it earned her the endearing nickname, “Fatdog” which lasted her lifetime whether her weight was up or down.

Back in the oughts Google bombing was a thing. I set up a sub-domain under the term “ornerycritter” and seeded links so that if you typed “ornery critter” into Google and clicked the I’m Feeling Lucky button it would bring up a picture of Shadow. This probably spoke more to my over abundance of free time at the time than it did to Shadow.

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace. ― Milan Kundera

After being mauled she became defensive around other dogs, so she and I attended Sirius Puppy School. We both learned a lot and she developed the good habits that would make her a great dog.

Shadow on the beach.
On the beach at Olympic National Park.

Shadow was a well traveled dog visiting 46 states by the time she was eight. I always promised her that we would go to Maine so she could get numbers 47 and 48, but we never made it…time ran out. We did go up to Minnesota last Summer as it was closer than Maine and we couldn’t free up the time needed for a longer expedition. Minnesota is similar to Maine; the great North woods, Moose, views of Canada, etc. She never said if she was disappointed with the switch but we did enjoy a final week long camping experience, even if she wasn’t up for hiking.

Shadow loved camping and visiting National Parks as much as I do. She did all the great parks from Olympic NP to Everglades NP and from Glacier NP to Big Bend NP, as well as most of them in between. We would take camping road trip vacations a couple of times a year, spending lots of time camping and hiking in the National Forests; no man could ask for a better travel companion.

John and Shadow
Me and Fatdog backpacking at Big Sur.

I always thought I would add a second dog when Shadow turned 6. But in 2007, with Shadow barely 4, I went through a dark time. Of course I did the worst possible thing to combat it, I got a puppy. A bouncing Blue Heeler who I named Smokey.

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.— Edward Hoagland

Shadow didn’t enjoy Smokey as much as I thought she would, but she rose to the occasion and was a stalwart alpha to Smokey’s status seeking beta. However, having a young dog around who was always seeking confrontation led Shadow to age pre-maturely, she quit playing as every romp turned into a battle of supremacy. Shadow maintained her dominance till the end, but it had its toll on her personality. Still, I think she loved Smokey as much as I do.

Shadow and Smokey
Fatdog with her sidekick DooDoo playing in the snow of the High Sierras

Shadow and I lived in Berkeley, California for most of her life. She grew up hiking and playing in Tilden Regional Park and Pt. Isabelle Dog Park; two of America’s jewels both conveniently located within 10 miles of San Francisco. All summer long we would journey across the valley to spend weekends in the Sierra mountains. In the Winter we would often day trip into the mountains to play in the snow. In her senior years we moved to Columbia, Missouri where she got to experience life with four seasons.

I’m an introvert… I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky. –Audrey Hepburn

I am going to hijack this ode to Shadow and write just a bit about me. I thought I was ready to let her go. I mourned a little the first time she couldn’t hike all day, a little more when 10 miles got to be too much for her, and again when 5 miles was too much. I mourned for her the first time it took 45 minutes to walk around the block, a little more when I had to start carrying her up and down the half flight of stairs, and again when she couldn’t even make it around the block. I mourned her pain, I mourned her physical and mental decline. I thought this pre-mourning would make it easier to let her go when the time arrived. It didn’t.

She truly was more than just a dog, she was my friend and always faithful companion. It is more than just Smokey and I who will miss her, but everyone whom she touched. With friends from coast to coast, that dog will live on in memories far and wide. Goodbye my friend, I miss you, and always will.

Shadow with flowers.
Shadow grew up in the Bay area parks.

Dogs got personality. Personality will go a long way. –Quentin Tarantino

This photo story covers the first half of Shadow’s life.

I went ahead and did a photo story for the second half of Shadow’s life.

RIP, My Friend

News link

and obituary

We sail through endless skies
Stars shine like eyes
The black night sighs

The moon in silver dreams
Falls down in beams
Light of the night

The Earth a purple blaze
Of sapphire haze
In orbit always

While down below the trees
Bathed in cool breeze
Silver starlight
Breaks dawn from night

And so we pass on by
The crimson eye
Of great god Mars
As we travel the universe

(Planet Caravan, Black Sabbath 1970)

RIP Turtle Dog (2007-2010)

From Drop Box

Turtle Dog’s real name was Myrtle…she was a great little dog. My dad got her as a puppy and her and Smokey grew up together. We haven’t seen as much of her since she moved to Missouri (the above picture was taken in Death Valley, Xmas 2007.) Turtle was born with a bad heart and she was never what one would call healthy, but she had a good life despite her health. She never let her bad heart prevent her from throwing down with Smokey, she was always ready to defend her toys or her favorite spot… She will be missed.

Mike writes up a better eulogy for the Turtle Dog.

Jack Herer, Dead at 70

If anyone can take the credit (or the blame) for the loosening of pot laws it is Jack Herer.  His 1985 publication (and numerous re-publications) of  The Emperor Wears No Clothes is what brought marijuana reform to the public’s consciousness.

In my few interactions with Jack, I found him rather rude; but that in no way diminishes his profound and lasting imprint on society.  The candle he sparked while preparing his book has blossomed into a beacon that will not be extinguished.

Today, do two things in memory of Jack; spark a spliff in his memory and read a book to learn something new.  You never know what impact the insight will have.

RIP: Larry Norman (1947-2008)

I just found out that Larry Norman died a few days ago.  (wikipedia  his website  Reuters obit).

He was the original Christian rocker.   My brother turned me on to him with the release of his 1981 Something New Under the Son.  I remember really liking it. A few years ago I ordered the album off of his website and have enjoyed listening to it since.

Larry’s solo career stated in 1969 with the release of Upon This Rock.  I listened to this album earlier today for the first time.  It is easily as good as Something New, it has a touch of the psychedelic sound to it ala early Traffic or the Turtles.

While this atheist can’t believe that he went to his Father’s house, I do know that he is suffering no more.  I can’t help but believe that his music will live on.  The inevitable tribute albums will introduce him to a whole new generation of listeners.

RIP Malachai Ritscher (1954-2006)

When a person reaches the point that they would self imolate rather than continue to live in silence with their government’s actions, it should be news. People should hear about it! When you make this final sacrifice, when you cry out in your loudest possible voice, with the ultimate personal sacrifice, your voice should not go unheard.

On November 3, 2006, Malachi (can I call you Malachi?) sat down near rush hour traffic, doused himself with gasoline and lit a match…when the fire department arrived they found a sign near his charred body, it read: “Thou shalt not kill.”

He left a suicide note, much of the indi-media asks can we believe the note? Or was it the action of a troubled mind? Is/was he a martyr or a nut? You can read his note here, then you can decide what you want to believe. For myself, I believe…

He also penned his own obituary, it is here.

I never heard of Malachai until nearly a month after his death. It was not covered on CNN, Fox, BBC, etc… While I never heard his cries, I believe he did not die in vain. Like a tree falling where no one can hear…like the sound of one hand clapping…I hear, and I believe, but did it make a sound?

Malachai was without a doubt troubled. However, in a time of national conflagration, it is the un-perturbed mind that is to be doubted (Epicurus aside). In his suicide martyr note he wrote: To the rest of the world we are cowards – demanding Iraq to disarm, and after they comply, we attack with remote-control high-tech video-game weapons. And then lie about our reasons for invading. We the people bear complete responsibility for all that will follow, and it won’t be pretty.

Two years before my birth, Thich Quang Duc–a Buddhist monk–set himself afire in Saigon in protest of US actions in Indo-China. I think his actions helped end the bloodshed there, even if it took another 10 years.

It is not a pleasant death to burn–it is not an action to be taken lightly–and we must not judge it lightly. If suicide was his intent, why not pass quietly into the abyss? Why not whiskey and valium? Who would choose a burst of flame and pain? Only someone with a message, perhaps one last message to mankind.

On another website, Malachi had previously posted the following words:

I believe that God promised us a happy ending, but I don’t remember if there is something that I’m supposed to do, other than just be a good person and turn the other cheek. Even with breathing exercises and a positive mental attitude, it’s getting hard to keep pretending that I don’t have blood on my hands. How many unnecessary deaths have my tax dollars paid for? I keep trying not to think about it. There are electronic gadgets to distract me, and yoga to repress the simmering anger, and sports, and movies, and snacks, and music, and shopping, and so much entertainment that I couldn’t watch it all with a thousand eyes!
But here is the big question, the one that really matters:

We now know Malachai’s answer to his self-imposed question…but the question remains:


Rest in peace dear Malachai, this world is a hard place for one who thinks and feels….you will be remembered…………….